NEW DELHI – More than 100 million people were registered to vote in Monday’s regional elections in India’s Haryana and Maharashtra states, marking the first provincial polls since the country’s prime minister was re-elected in May.
Narendra Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) are expected to retain power in both states, where 107 million are eligible to vote.
“Opposition parties including (Indian National) Congress have already lost and have left the battleground, their tall claims have no value,” Haryana state’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said on the way to the polling station.
In the northern state – which has about 18 million registered voters according to the Election Commission – the BJP has been in power since 2014, and has 48 out of 90 lawmakers in the state assembly.
The main opposition Indian National Congress, led by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, is attempting to stage a comeback in the state, although its massive defeat in the general elections has left the party without a clear leader and battling for survival.
Two regional parties are also in the fray in Haryana.
BJP is equally confident of retaining power in the state of Maharashtra, along with its regional ally Shiv Sena, a Hindu right-wing party that has dominated the state for decades.
About 90 million people are registered to vote in the important western state, with its capital Mumbai often described as the financial capital of the country and famous for hosting Bollywood, the Hindi film industry.
Results for both elections are expected Thursday.
Modi and the BJP had registered a resounding victory in the May elections and remain visibly popular despite the Indian economy losing steam in recent months and domestic demand plummeting across sectors.
The Indian GDP growth rate fell to 5 percent in the quarter between April and May, the lowest in six years, and both the Reserve Bank of India (India’s central bank) and the World Bank have reduced their growth forecasts for the country.